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Public relations awards honor our reliable public health messaging

When mpox arrived in Pierce County, lots of people were scared.

Thankfully, we had been working for months to offer help and ease their concerns.

Our Communicable Disease team began working on plans to offer vaccinations. Our Community Engagement team met with community leaders to learn who we needed to reach and how best to reach them. And our Communication Team worked with our public health nurses to create a strategic communications plan, webpages, and messages. 

It was gratifying when that work paid off last year and we were able to help our neighbors. 

That’s why we were so honored when the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Puget Sound Chapter recognized our communication and community relations. Earlier this month, it awarded us its President’s Choice Award for our Crisis Communications during the mpox outbreak.

That award and others we earned during the ceremony give a great glimpse into the important work of public health. 

Focus on partnerships, equity, and racial justice. 

Public health’s role is often to build strong partnerships with helpers in our community. And we always focus on helping people who need it most. 

Beginning in May 2022, we met regularly with healthcare providers to share mpox information. We also connected with local organizations that could help reach those most at-risk, like Pierce County AIDS Foundation and Rainbow Center.

We prioritized people who most needed to know how to protect themselves. That kept health equity and racial justice central in our outreach and communication.

Reliable communication is vital to good public health.

When mpox reached Pierce County, we were ready to quickly share reliable information. 

We’ve heard from partners and folks in the community that our quick work helped change behaviors and encouraged many to get vaccinated.

Early, thoughtful planning with subject matter experts is vital to good crisis communications. 

PRSA Chapter President and Pierce County Communications Director Libby Catalinich, APR, outlined the many challenges of this campaign:

  • We faced a crisis when already operating within another crisis, COVID-19.
  • We needed to educate the public and encourage vaccination amidst a vaccine shortage.
  • We also needed to reduce the stigma surrounding the crisis. 

“This was a well-planned and executed campaign that took a lot of work,” Catalinich said. 

She added, “You had great response to your campaign and getting the word out helped with the downward trend of mpox.”

Public health means everything from preventing disease to improving the air you breathe.

PRSA’s Puget Sound Chapter also awarded our team with certificates of excellence for 2 other 2022 campaigns.

Let’s be idle free, 253! shared the importance of turning off your engine when not driving. This campaign offered people 3 positive benefits: 

  • Protect your kids.
  • Save your money.
  • Clear the air you breathe. 

What could smoke free do for you? In this campaign, we partnered with MultiCare to use positive imagery and messaging to encourage people to consider how quitting smoking could improve their lives.

The ads for both campaigns got millions of views online and were featured on billboards throughout Pierce County. 

These campaigns brought praise for our positive approach to connect with our community. 

Your reliable source. 

You have likely seen these kinds of ads from us through the years, focusing on all sorts of health concerns.

We often use the touchstones of humor and personal responsibility to connect with our community.

This is the 3rd straight year PRSA honored our work. Last year, the organization named our Communication and Community Relations Director Edie Jeffers its PR Professional of the Year.

These awards are great! We hope they reflect the trust you’ve shown the Health Department and our entire staff. We work hard to be your reliable source of public health information.

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